Friday, 16 December 2016

Plans or Purpose? by Lynda Alsford

I've recently discovered Premier Praise Radio (online and on digital). I love its mix of praise and worship, prayer and Bible readings and I listen to it a great deal. I find it very uplifting, especially at work. This week one of the short messages on the Bible really impacted me. I wish I could remember who it was who shared this thought but I can only remember that it was a man! His message was about plans versus purpose. 

Does God have detailed plans for our lives? Or a purpose?

I always thought God has a plan for my life, a detailed plan that I had to work hard to follow. I would worry occasionally that I was missing His plan. Then I would wonder where free will fitted into God having a plan for my life. This man on Premier Praise Radio was sharing from Jeremiah 29:11, a popular verse. Here it is in NIV

" For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future"

It appears to talk about the plans God has for us. Plans which will prosper us. But as I listened to radio that day at work, I learned that the original Hebrew for the word plans is machashabah (מַחֲשָׁבָה). It means thoughts, plans, purposes. Young's literal translation translates the verse like this. 

"For I have known the thoughts that I am thinking towards you -- an affirmation of Jehovah; thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give to you posterity and hope." 

God has a hope filled purpose to prosper us

The speaker (how I wish I remembered who he was!) said he thinks that God has a purpose for our lives, not a detailed plan. He felt that purpose was a more accurate translation of the Hebrew word. This led me to wonder what difference there was in the two words in English. 

Google gave the following definitions: 

Plan, noun
1. a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.

2. an intention or decision about what one is going to do.

Purpose, noun
1.  the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

2.  a person's sense of resolve or determination.

I find it freeing that there are no definite plans. I find it easier to fit free will and God's mercy into His having a purpose filled with hope and peace for us. God has a hope filled reason for creating us. I can't disappoint Him by not keeping to a His plans if He has a hope filled purpose for our lives. I can spend the rest of my life looking to Him and His love and mercy to see me through each decision we make together. 

The other main thing to note in this verse is that God is speaking to all the people of God. The word 'you' is plural not singular. If we keep the verse in context it is clear he is speaking to all God's people together. The purpose He has is for the all of us collectively. I was reminded also of the verse from Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

What about you? How does the thought that God has a purpose for our lives affect you? Would you rather there were plans or purpose?

Lynda Alsford is a sea loving, cat loving GP administrator and writes in her spare time. She has written two books, He Never Let Go describes her journey through a major crisis of faith whilst working as an evangelist at a lively Church in Chiswick, West London. Being Known describes how God set her free from food addiction. Both books are available in paperback and on kindle on and She writes a newsletter, Seeking the Healer, in which she shares the spiritual insights she has gained on her journey. Sign up for this at her website


  1. It was about 5 years ago I felt God say to me, when I was thinking of moving to a different school and wasn't sure if it was 'in the Plan', 'I don't mind where you are. It's what you do and how you are while you're there.' It was a big moment for me. I no longer believe there's a Plan A or a perfect path. Enjoyed your post. It resonated with me.

  2. Glad it resonated with you Fran. Thank you for sharing